It’s taken me a long time to figure out what to write about this month, mostly because I’ve avoided the news. That was probably the best holiday present I received. Instead, I paid attention to the good news that was arriving in my mailbox each day — the end-of-year appeals from organizations dedicated to promoting the kind of world I want to live in.

Of course, topping the list, is Hardy Girls Healthy Women, supporting girls to create the world they want to live in. It is, after all, the younger generation we are counting on to put right what we haven’t.

Next, there’s the Hope Fund, created by the Poverty Action Coalition and housed at KVCAP. The coalition created the fund to provide the kinds of support many people need to stay in their homes, take care of emergency car repairs and medical expenses so they can continue to work, and do their laundry when rent, heat, and food have eaten up their monthly income. The PAC’s 209 community investors contributed more than $7,000 helping 48 families become financially stable when there were no other resources available.

The Waterville Public Library, with its children’s room, the programs for teens, literacy volunteers, or the Business, Career, and Creativity Center for people wanting to learn how to apply and interview for a job, to upgrade skills, or for businesses looking for employees, has become a key proactive partner in creating a prosperous Waterville-area economy.

For teens who have nowhere to go, there are two organizations working to help move them toward a brighter future. The Mid Maine Homeless Shelter’s Homeless Youth Project and KV Behavioral Health Homeless Youth Outreach program work with teens who, for whatever reason, aren’t living in their homes. It’s more common than you might think because there are laws that prohibit teens under the age of 18 from staying at the homeless shelter without a parent. These kids are ones we need to support so that they can learn how to support themselves in a way that will lead to better life outcomes for them and for those of us depending on them as we grow older.

The school system also has a fund for children of all ages who come to school without having a home, warm clothes, or enough food to carry them through weekends and holidays. Your tax dollars go to support the operation of the schools, and there are day-to-day needs of students, some met by teachers and administrators themselves. But there are other needs that must to met to help these children remain and succeed in school. We are lucky to have Central Maine Educare located in Waterville. It provides the kind of wrap-around support young children and their families need to enter school prepared to succeed. However, it’s important that we continue to support children in their K-12 years because we need them to be supporting us in our old age.

Of course, Maine Family Planning and Planned Parenthood of Northern New England are on my list of organizations that are critical to creating a world in which I want to live. While it’s the abortion services they provide that get the most public attention, both organizations spend the vast majority of their resources providing life-saving PAP tests and breast exams, and contraceptive services, primarily to women with low incomes. For some bizarre reason, Republicans have declared a war on this work. Regardless of whether you support a woman’s right to choose how to handle an unplanned pregnancy, what sense does it make to deny us access to the kinds of services that keep us healthy and from having an unplanned pregnancy in the first place?

We spend a lot of time demonizing people with low incomes but very little time working to make sure they have the skills and tools necessary to achieve prosperity. The organizations on this list are the ones working to make that happen. No matter whether you believe the government should play a role in helping people become more prosperous, I hope you’ll join me in supporting these organizations. People’s lives hang in the balance.

For those of you who think these are all a little too political for your tastes, consider the Maine Film Center, which includes Railroad Square and the Maine International Film Festival, KM Trails and the Quarry Road Recreational Center, which provide us with state-of-the art snowmaking, 40-plus miles of trails, and the opportunity to work off holiday treats. These organizations are critical to our economic success as a region, too.

While there are many on this list and many others worthy of being on it, I hope you will consider how you can make a difference in creating the kind of community in which we all want to live.

Karen Heck is a resident and former mayor of Waterville.

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